Confession time: Within me lurks a baking snob. Yes, it's true. The snob doesn't surface all that frequently but occasionally, when she does, I find it expedient to discourage her from voicing her icy opinion. What provokes her to make an appearance? The presence of prefabricated, industrially produced food often does it. And the effect is magnified for the snob when she's faced with prefab foods that have been used as an integral ingredient in otherwise homemade baked goods.
You know what I mean. Besides obvious items like cake mixes and canned frosting, there's the cake that relies heavily on Milky Way bars for its existence and notoriety. Or the cake that shamelessly makes use of 7-Up in its batter. Then, of course, there's the thorny problem of all that scary dye that puts the red into red velvet cake. (Where does that red stuff come from anyway?)
Is the snob ever justified in her view? I suppose so. I mean, it's a free country, right? But what makes her think she's any different, or better, than the rest of us? What's the snob's problem? Is she a just a high-brow faker, or does she simply have lofty baking standards? Hmm . . . that's one to ponder.
In any case, it's clear that the stiff-neck often doesn't have a leg to stand on. And this is one of those instances. Why? Because this recipe takes its very essence from a package of store-bought cookies. Cookies that I freely admit I love.
That's right. I have a soft spot for Pepperidge Farm mint milanos. There are actually very few mass-produced cookies that I find even remotely tempting, but these fragile mint and chocolate-filled treats have the power to stir me. Not only delicate themselves, they're also delicately packaged. Smooth and tender-crisp, they seem to begin melting just as you first bite into them. And the mint tastes natural, not overdone. So, as you can imagine, I had to completely overrule the snob when I saw this recipe.
I silenced her.
About this recipe . . .
Coming to us from the glossy, glorious pages of Lora Brody's book, Chocolate American Style, this cake showcases milano (mint or otherwise, you choose your favorite variety) cookies perfectly.
The only aspect of the recipe that I changed involved upping the amount of sour cream slightly, and rewording the instructions. Other than that, I was faithful to the original. This, by the way, is an exceptionally worthwhile book for any baker who's also a chocolate lover. It's dreamy.
Marble Mint-Milano Cake
One 7.5 oz. package of Pepperidge Farm mint-milano cookies (or the flavor of your choice)
9 oz. unsalted butter, very soft (divided use: 6 Tbsp., and 12 Tbsp.)
2 oz. unsweetened baking chocolate, coarsely chopped
1 and 3/4 cups All-Purpose flour (I used unbleached)
1 and 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. baking soda
1 and 1/4 cups granulated sugar
4 extra-large eggs at room temperature
1 cup and 2 Tbsp. good quality sour cream
2 tsp. vanilla extract
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter the bottom and sides of a 9" springform pan; cover the bottom with a parchment paper circle, and butter the parchment.
Over a medium bowl, break up the cookies into pieces about 1/2" in size. Using your hands, quickly mix the 6 Tbsp. of soft butter into the cookie pieces, just enough to coat them. Set aside.
In a medium bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, salt, and baking soda. Set aside.
Melt the chocolate in a small bowl set over simmering water, or carefully and slowly in your microwave. Keep the melted chocolate slightly warm; don't let it cool and harden.
Put the sugar and 12 Tbsp. of butter in the large bowl of an electric mixer. Beat on medium-high speed until light and fluffy.
Add in the eggs one at a time and beating well after each. Still on medium-high, beat in the sour cream and the vanilla extract.
On low speed, add in the flour mixture and mix just to combine. Don't over beat.
Pour 3/4 of the batter into the prepared pan and smooth it out with your spatula.
Into the remaining batter, pour the melted chocolate and stir until no white batter is visible.
Dollop the chocolate batter here and there onto the top of the batter already in the pan. Using a couple of knives, make a few criss-cross motions to marble it into the bottom layer of batter.
Sprinkle the broken cookie pieces evenly over the top of the chocolate batter, and gently press them in slightly.
Bake the cake until the top is golden, and the cake springs back in the center when lightly pressed. In my oven this cake took barely 45 minutes, but Lora Brody's recipe recommends 60 minutes. Just keep checking on it, and if it appears to be browning too quickly, lightly cover the top with foil. Let the cake cool for about 20 minutes in its pan on a rack before removing the sides of the pan. Cool the rest of the way on a rack.
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